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High Point (4-7) at (23) Minnesota (11-0)
Sunday, December 28th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: High Point 3-4, Minnesota 10-0. Away Record: High Point 1-3, Minnesota 1-0. Neutral Record: High Point 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: High Point 0-2, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 23rd-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers are off to their best start in over three decades, and they will put that fast start on the line this evening, as they play host to the High Point Panthers in non-conference action from Williams Arena.
The Panthers have been idle since December 19th when they dropped a 64-61 decision to Youngstown State. That loss was the second in a row and third in the last four outings for High Point, which is 4-7 overall, including 0-2 in Big South Conference action.
As for Minnesota, it will begin the Big Ten portion of the schedule after tonight's clash. The Golden Gophers are a perfect 11-0, their best start since the 1976-77 campaign. Tubby Smith has turned the program around, although critics will point out that the schedule thus far has been awfully soft and 10 of the wins have come at home. Smith's team was most recently in action on Tuesday when it defeated Southeastern Louisiana by an 80-71 final.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Minnesota and High Point on the hardwood.
It is a bit surprising that High Point is three games under .500 thus far, as the squad has outscored and outrebounded its opponents on average. The Panthers have played stellar defense, limiting foes to 62.5 ppg on 39.8 percent shooting from the floor. Unfortunately, they have turned the ball over too much and are shooting 57.3 percent from the foul line. The leading scorer for High Point is Eugene Harris, as he is posting 13.5 ppg despite his 38.8 percent field goal efficiency. The only other double-digit scorer in the lineup is Nick Barbour, as he posts 10.5 ppg. In the three-point loss to Youngstown State last time out, Barbour scored 21 points to keep his team close. Unfortunately, no other player on the roster had more than eight points, and the Panthers shot 39 percent from the floor. They were a woeful 9- of-21 from the charity stripe, the most obvious reason for the setback.
Overall this season, Minnesota is scoring 74.1 ppg, while limiting opponents to 62.1 ppg on 39.1 percent shooting from the field. The Golden Gophers are led by Lawrence Westbrook, as he is scoring 13.0 ppg. Damian Johnson checks in with 11.0 ppg, and Blake Hoffarber tallies 10.4 ppg. Minnesota was far from dominant in the win over Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, as the Golden Gophers were outrebounded in that tilt and did just enough to finish on top. Westbrook and Hoffarber didn't start the game, but both players scored 15 points off the bench. As for Johnson, he posted 13 points in 31 minutes of action. Minnesota hit eight three-pointers and finished with 19 assists against only 10 turnovers.
Expect the Golden Gophers to remain undefeated with a win over High Point. Smith has done a great job of turning the program around, and the Golden Gophers figure to be one of the better teams in the wide open Big Ten this year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 77, High Point 62
12/28 10:22:19 ET
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